Category: Diary

A Humanist’s view of Christmas celebrations

Suffolk Humanists & Secularists member Penny Binsted wrote the following article for the Lawshall (Suffolk) village newsletter. She says, “It has been very well received and I have had many positive comments! Maybe there are more closet Humanists than people like to admit.”

As Christmas is meant to be a celebration for Jesus’s birthday it is obvious to me that I have nothing to celebrate as I am a humanist. Humanism is the conviction that we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and that we can all lead good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We choose to take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good.

The number of people in the UK choosing non-religious humanist ceremonies for births, marriages and deaths is growing rapidly, as is the membership of the British Humanist Association, from Professor Richard Dawkins (Vice President of the British Humanists), Professor Susan Blackmore, the late Claire Rayner, Ricky Gervais, Rowan Atkinson, Woody Allen, the authors Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett, to politicians Roy Hattersley and Ken Livingstone. The journalist Polly Toynbee is the current President of the British Humanist Association and all three main parties in the House of Commons have Humanist groups.

The history of Christmas celebrations is eclectic – for thousands of years in Europe, in Scandinavia communities celebrated life in midwinter, with eating and drinking, around the time of the shortest day on December 21st. It is highly unlikely that Jesus Christ was born on 25th December, and there were no  Church celebrations for Christmas until the 4th century as there was disapproval of the Pagan festivities. Then Christians adopted the old Pagan festival of Midwinter, making it a joint secular and religious event – it is now a jumble of ancient customs and more recent inventions: many of our ‘traditions’ like Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards, gifts and turkeys are all fairly recent, mostly Victorian inventions from Prince Albert.

Winner of the Bad Faith Award

Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, head of the UK Islamic Sharia Council, has won the 2010 Bad Faith Award for asserting that there’s no such thing as marital rape. “Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage,” he’s reported as saying. “Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.”

Celebration of Human Rights

UN logoA Humanist contribution to an inter-faith Celebration of Human Rights hosted by the Ipswich & District Bahá’í­ community at Ipswich Central Library, 10 December 2010. The theme was Article 26:2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Spiritual Education”: Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

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The Article we’re celebrating today refers to “Spiritual Education”. I have a problem with this, because I don’t know what “spiritual” means. I know what other people say it means, but there are several definitions, some of them religious, and I find them mostly too vague to agree with them. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll ignore that part of the Article and talk about the rest: about education, and about understanding and tolerance. These are things without which no civil society can function properly, and without which there is endless scope for disharmony and conflict.

Christmas with children, without hassle

This was an article in a newsletter from 2008 by Sophie Lovejoy, who has two young children. It provides ideas for parents with limited budgets who’d like to keep their spending under control, yet still have a good time.

Xmas cookingChristmas is invariably a challenge with small children, particularly if you aren’t Christian. For the past few years, my halcyon days of totally ignoring Christmas have been entirely forgotten. I got away with not celebrating when Tess was one, but as she turned two, I couldn’t hold out any longer. Once Toby came along, I had no choice but to rethink how I’d manage over the festive season. I work very hard in the run up to Christmas to keep the kids focused on the people they love, and who love them. Part of this is making almost all our gifts and cards, and I try to make something for each of the children too. I occasionally let the kids buy something very small, but usually my response when they ask is “Do you have any money? No? Well we’ll have to make something then.”

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub – Open Talk Night – Music

We’re told:

In our last event before Christmas, the theme is Music. Mark Aaron will talk about online activism in the context of saving BBC 6 music, and John Benton will talk about common logical fallacies regarding hifi equipment.

You’ll find ISP in the green room at the back of McGinty’s.

Monthly meeting – The Geology of Suffolk

Member Colleen Nunn will be talking about geology. She says:

How much do you know about the ground beneath your feet and what it can tell us about about the geological history of Suffolk? Did you know, for example, that our county once had a climate like the present day Caribbean or that the River Thames once flowed through Suffolk? I will be exploring the rocks found here and demonstrating how they can reveal all sorts of clues as to how the landscape and climate have evolved through time.

There will be pictures and samples to see.